The 1950s heralded enormous changes for the easternmost half-mile of Wilshire Boulevard. As construction of the Harbor Freeway cleared an enormous trench on the western edge of downtown, a portion of the boulevard was rebuilt as an overpass which opened in 1952, seen in the foreground of the above photos. By then, the area was poised to supplant the historic core as the city’s main financial district.
Two buildings in the original photograph have survived to this day. The General Petroleum Building (Mobilgas sign), designed by Welton Becket, was claimed to be the largest office building in the city at the time of its construction in 1948, only to be swiftly dwarfed by its new neighbors. On the right is the Wilshire Grand Hotel, which first opened as the city’s Statler Hotel in 1952 and is currently the proposed site of a new major skyscraper development.
The nine-story Rex Arms apartments opened in 1912 at 945 Orange Street, developed by F. O. Engstrum, whose firm was also behind the magnificent Bryson Apartments near MacArthur Park. At the time, the Rex was one of Los Angeles’ largest and grandest residential buildings, held up by the great ambitions of the city’s elites. After Orange Street was renamed Wilshire Boulevard, a portion of the Rex’s main facade was demolished during the avenue’s widening in the early 1930s, which explains its rather stripped down appearance in the original photo.
The Rex disappears from newspaper records in 1976, probably at the time of its destruction. Since 1980, the site has been occupied by a 22-story office tower designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Originally named 911 Wilshire, the building’s name and address, for obvious reasons, were changed to 915 Wilshire several years ago.
Wilshire Grand Development [SkyscraperPage Forum]
1. “911 Wilshire nears completion.” Los Angeles Times. 4 May 1980. H18
2. “New apartments model of type.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Nov. 1912. 6.
3. “New York Life to buy oil company building.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Mar. 1948. A1.
4. Richardson, Eric. “57 Years Ago: Hotel Statler Opens at Figueroa and Wilshire.” blogdowntown. 6 Aug 2009. http://blogdowntown.com/2009/08/4581-57-years-ago-hotel-statler-opens-at-figueroa.
5. “Wilshire bridge over freeway opens today.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Oct. 1952. A1.
Original photo: “Rex Arms, Mobilgas – Los Angeles, 1954.” 1954. Neat Stuff Blog. http://neat-stuff-blog.blogspot.com/2009/11/vintage-los-angeles.html.